April 20, 2014

GUJARAT & LOK SABHA 2014


CAN MODI PAINT GUJARAT IN SAFFRON?


In 1977, Morarji Desai - a Gandhian from Valsad became the first Indian, not hailing from Uttar Pradesh to become the Prime Minister of India. Exactly 37 years down the line, it seems that history is repeating itself. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat is the BJP's nominee for the top post in case the NDA comes to power. Over the last few months, as the media has reported, a 'Modi wave' has swept across much of the country, at least in the parts where the saffron camp has presence. Even in places where the BJP does not boast of a strong regional structure, his ratings seem to be pretty high. And there is no doubt that the NaMonia has caught much of the western state in its grip. No prizes for guessing that the BJP is winning here. But can it go past the 20 mark in this General Elections, something that it has never managed to do under Modi? Lets try to analyze how the Gujaratis will vote this year.

ISSUES

(1) The Gujarat Model of Development: Having been in power for nearly 13 years, the Gujarat CM who is also seen as the Hindutva poster boy has made development as his election plank. In rally after rally across the country, he has spoken about the different projects and schemes that have been implemented in the state under him. From attracting foreign investments to the development of roads, from creating employment to improving the supply of water and power in all parts of the state, Modi's 'Gujarat Model' has become one of the most talked about issues this year. Of course, his political rivals and detractors have slammed him of indulging in 'crony capitalism' and his failure to protect Muslims during the 2002 riots. At a time when there is so much debate over the kind of work that Modi has done in his home state, this is going to be the dominant issue in 2014 Lok Sabha, at least in Gujarat.

(2) Modi versus the Gandhis: Narendra Modi enjoys solid popularity in his home state, a fact evident from his three consecutive victories in the state assembly elections. Trying to leverage the anti-incumbency against the UPA II government to his advantage, he has accused the Congress of failing to stop corruption and protect the country's political and economic interest. Besides, personally attacking Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, he has been particularly critical of the leadership of PM Manmohan Singh. By projecting Modi as the only leader capable of pulling India out of the 'mess' it find itself in, the BJP's campaign itself has been based around or as the others say, 'hijacked' by the candidature of its PM nominee.

The Congress has been quick in returning favor, accusing Modi of being a divisive figure who is 'against the idea of India'. In a bid to shift the focus from its government's own failures, the grand old party has raised the bogey of 'Secularism' to weaken the BJP's campaign. Besides, the internal discontent in some segments of the saffron camp like the treatment meted out to senior leaders like party patriarch L K Advani, senior leader Murali Manohar Joshi and former Union Minister Jaswant Singh has only given them more fodder to attack the Gujarat CM over his 'authoritarian' style of leadership.

CONTENDERS

(1) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): The saffron camp in Gujarat received a shot in the arm when the majority of the leaders of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) - an outfit formed by Modi baiters including Keshubhai Patel and Gorhdan Zafaria in 2007 came back into the party fold. However, the ride has not been smooth. It was believed that party patriarch and former Deputy PM L K Advani was keen to shift his base to Bhopal as he had better relations with Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan. After much deliberations though, the party did manage to convince its leader to contest from Gandhinagar. Meanwhile, Advani loyalist and multiple time MP Harin Patak has been replaced by key Modi aide and Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal from Ahmedabad. The CM himself will contest from Vadodra parliamentary seat.

(2) Congress: In the last two Lok Sabha polls, the party did extremely well here, giving a tough fight to the BJP. However, with the Modi wave getting stronger by the day, the INC is clearly on the back foot, at least in Gujarat. Lacking a strong local leader to take on the BJP bandwagon is showing. Former BJP leader and state CM Shankersinh Vaghela was given a ticket from Sabarkantha at the last moment. The party has nominated Rahul Gandhi aide Madhusudhan Mistry, another former RSS member against Modi from Vadodra. This was after city leader and party's first choice Narendra Rawat who had won the primaries decided to withdraw from the race leaving the INC red-faced.

PAST PERFORMANCES

Over the last five General Elections, the BJP has been always had the upper hand. In 1996, the saffron outfit bagged 16 as the Congress claimed the rest of the parliamentary seats from here. In the next two polls, the saffronists further strengthened their hold in Ahmedabad. By 1999, the party's tally had swelled to an impressive 20. On the other hand, ever since Modi has come to power in the state, the fight between the two national parties has been much more closer.

Political Party
2009
2004
1999
1998
1996
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
15
14
20
1914
Congress
11
1267
12

MY PREDICTIONS

Many in the saffron camp are predicting that the BJP will rout the Congress here since it is the home state of their PM nominee Narendra Modi. However, I believe it is a little bit of exaggeration. No doubt it will win big but the party is not going to end up picking up all the 26 parliamentary seats from here.

Political PartyExpected Seats
1Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)21-24
2Congress2-5

WATCH OUT

(1) Modi's political fortunes: There are three scenarios in which Modi may not occupy the top post after the Union Elections. First is if the Congress somehow manages to retain power. Second is if the Congress decided to give outside support to a Federal government just to keep the BJP at bay. Third is if the BJP in need of allies decided to replace Modi with someone more acceptable to its prospective allies. In all these three scenarios, one thing is clear - Modi's political career may be dealt a severe blow, one from which it will be extremely difficult to recover. All the anti-Modi elements within the saffron camp who are quiet at the moment will come to the forefront. Certainly after a such a closely fought campaign, there is no more going back to the post of CM of Gujarat. Moreover, the Congress in Ahmedabad will receive a much needed boost and it may well, even storm the BJP's citadel in 2017.

(2) After Modi, who? Now, in case Modi does become the PM of the country, as many expect him to be, the question is who will occupy the post of the CM of Gujarat. There are three main contenders to the post - Anandi Patel, Nitin Patel and Saurabh Patel. Anandiben, probably the second tallest BJP leader in the state today, holds several key portfolios including Revenue, Roads and Buildings and is the hot favorite. She also accompanied Modi while he was filing his papers from Vadodra. Kuniyil Kailashnathan and Purushottam Rupala are considered to be the dark horses. You never know, modi may even place his right hand man Amit Shah as the helm of affairs if he does move to New Delhi.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)